Hundreds show up for Veterans Stand Down
Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Veterans Services volunteer Patrick Tracy, left, administers a blood pressure test to U.S. Army veteran Randy Davis of Port Hadlock during Thursday’s Veterans Stand Down at the Clallam County Fairgrounds.
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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More than 250 veterans had checked in by noon at the Veterans Stand Down sponsored by Voices for Veterans, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting homeless veterans on the Peninsula.
Those in need could get free services ranging from haircuts to employment services, while others showed up simply for the camaraderie. Free breakfast and lunch were served.
More than 20 organizations were present, from a local animal-care organization providing food, snacks and toys for veterans' pets, to state and federal public services.
The longest line was for haircuts, where veterans waited an hour or more for military-smart trims.
Free clothing and bedding, hygiene kits and outdoor equipment were available, including a stack of backpacks donated by the Army Reserves.
Few of the veterans who attended the event were homeless.
“It's hard to get them to come in,” said Cheri Tinker, director of Sarge's Place, a veterans shelter in Forks.
Five homeless veterans
By noon, about five homeless veterans had been identified and were being offered services, and more could come in later, said Maggie Roth, who managed the intake table at the stand down.
The assembled veterans did not report having problems — yet — due to the partial federal shutdown .
Many of the services offered to veterans are managed at the state or local level, and Veterans Administration medical benefits are not affected by the shutdown.
Veterans attending served during Korean and Vietnam wars, during the Cold War and in Iraq, Afghanistan and the many small skirmishes that take place in unfamiliar places far from home.
Crew members of the Coast Guard cutter Swordfish, which is based in Port Angeles, served lunch to the veterans, who crowded around tables swapping stories as they waited their turn at more than 20 information stations.
The youngest veterans at the event were in their early 20s, while the oldest was Charlie Nickles, 87, of Port Angeles, a Navy veteran who served on two transport ships from 1945-47.
Nickles had never been to a stand down before, and his eyes sparkled as he took in the many service members around him.
“It was quite a surprise,” Nickles said.
At the other end of the spectrum, youthful veterans said they found the older veterans had paved the path for the coming generations.
“It's more of a brotherhood,” said Jerrod Brown, 26, of Sequim, who served in the Navy as a master at arms, the Navy's military police force.
The older generation of veterans has welcomed the new young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Brown said.
One of the more surprising needs Thursday was food and supplies for cats, said Cheryl Bowers, president of New Leash on Life, a nonprofit group that helps low-income animal lovers.
“We want to keep the veterans' pets out of our animal shelters,” Bowers said.
By noon, gallon bags of dog food and baggies of dog toys and chews, flea treatments and wormers were still available, but Bowers said the cat supplies had run out early in the morning.
For more information about the stand down, phone 360-417-2383, 360-640-0296 or 360-302-1285.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: October 03. 2013 5:13PM